14 April 2007

A Taxing Situation






During his life, Leonardo produced thousands of pages of notes, sketches, and designs. These pages are called codices, manuscript pages that are bound together in book form.


Leonardo Da Vinci was born on April 15. Now over 550 years later, Mo presents a taxing situation and wants me to tax my brain using a computer. Now how in the world can you bring together Da Vinci, Computers, and taxes? Why you do it with a little known gambit on the Washington Use Tax now referred to as the "Da Vinci Exception".

In 1994, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates (he of sending pixels through windows) bought a Leonardo da Vinci manuscript for $30.8 million. One page of the Codex Leicester is shown above. The following year, Richard Ford, Gates' attorney at his father's firm of Preston Gates & Ellis, sought to create an exception in state tax law for local collectors whose out-of-state art purchases serve the public good.

Ford drafted a bill that would appeal to the interests of citizens across the state, not many of whom have had the chance to see a da Vinci manuscript firsthand. The idea was to offer a tax exemption for collectors whose artwork was available for public viewing, say at an art museum.

If Bill Gates had to pay nearly $3 million in taxes to bring the da Vinci manuscript into this state, why would he? He has eight or nine homes. He can leave it in a state without paying a use tax. Applying the use tax to art collectors would result in someone either not bringing (the art) into the state or not purchasing it at all.

Well this little bill before the legislator opened up a can of worms that no one wanted uncovered. It seems that some collectors weren't paying the use tax on art purchases anyway, and they didn't want the subject mentioned. So Gate's attorney dropped the matter with a legislator since there was no desire to irritate other collectors. Why create a problem where there is none? The use tax is theoretical until you get caught. If you buy a small piece of art and bring it home on an airplane who would know?

Gates allowed the Seattle Art Museum to display the da Vinci manuscript, known as the Codex Leicester. He also paid full use tax on the purchase, according to a spokesman for the Gates family thus ending the matter except that the State of Washington now pays a little closer attention to exhibits on the just in case there is a little bit of tax to be had.

13 comments:

Comedy + said...

I didn't know this, but the government always has their hand out for every penny they can get. You have the most interesting posts. I have learned so much. Happy MM :)

RebelliousRenee said...

Jamie.....
that was an interesting post....

I call Bill Gates..... the King of Mediocrity...

Travis said...

I didn't know there was a use tax on artwork purchases. The exception for the public good seems like an excellent idea.

Gattina said...

Why didn't I think of that ! I will ask a "look at" tax when people come to see my paintings !

Crazy Working Mom said...

Wow, very interesting information!

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

very interesting. i love it when i learn something first thing! thanks...

smiles, bee

ps: i painted a landscape, want to pay to see it? ha ha ha ha

lisa said...

Happy Birthday Leonardo! great info, thanks for sharing.

Morgen said...

USE TAX SUCKS
not that I have to pay any, but the State Of Michigan keeps sending me monthly bills for $0 saying that I am behind in paying use tax as a small business owner - my back use taxes owed? $0.00
What an effed up system!
No wonder the state of michigan has the worst economy in the US!

Stine said...

All the things one doesn't know... Thanks!

Claire said...

I love the Leonardo sketches, so fascinating. I copied some for my art project in school once.

Yet again you have informed the masses.
Why haven't you put up your voting buttons?

Turnbaby said...

Very interesting! Thanks for this post--very informative.

AMAZING GRACIE said...

More bureaucratic fluff-ups! Too many people with too much time on their hands! ARGH!
Thanks for such an interesting posting...

Imma ( Alice) said...

Wow, a lot of interesting info here, Jamie.

ATTN: Fellow Readers!
There will now be a tax, payable to me, on blog reading. Effective and retroactive to January 1, 2005. You can expect your bills in the mail as soon as I calculate the amounts you each owe. Have a happy day!